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Smart city infrastructure in the UK

6th August 2020
Lanna Cooper

The percentage of the UK population living in cities is expected to reach 92.2% by 2030. While urbanisation brings many benefits, it can also mean more congestion and pollution. These city initiatives offer a way to use superior interconnectivity and modern materials to help large populations live together. Here Nick Cowley, Managing Director of window and door manufacturer, Euramax explores smart city technologies.

Global urbanisation has led to the development of smart cities such as Stockholm, which was named the Smart City of 2019 at the Smart City Expo World Congress. The UK is home to its own smart city projects, including the city of Hull, which became the first city in the country with full-fibre connectivity.

Smart cities across the globe adopt innovative methods for sustainable urban development, often using digital connectivity and energy efficiency technologies to improve resident quality of life and lower environmental impact.

With so many people living in a concentrated area, urbanisation can put a strain on resources and make cities run less smoothly, with crowding and congestion interfering with daily tasks and overall city health.

For example, traffic congestion may cause a commuting worker to be late, therefore lowering the economic output of that company. Traffic can also increase pollution, which negatively impacts air quality and affects resident health.

UK initiatives

Regions all over the globe are implementing smart city initiatives and the UK is among them. Manchester’s Triangulum project involves a cloud-based energy management platform, which displays data such as energy use and cost, percentage of energy from renewables, air quality, new jobs and Gross Value Added (GVA).

The system can be likened to a virtual power plant for a number of sites across the city. The scheme has already reduced the area’s dependence on the grid and, if rolled out citywide, could save around 57,000 tonnes of carbon a year.

Manchester isn’t the only city implementing smart city initiatives, other UK cities such as Glasgow, Hull and Bristol are also following suit. London has its Smarter London Together roadmap that aims to make London the smartest city in the world.

Its mission involves a series of projects that use ideas from collaboration with the local community, other cities, technology companies, universities and public services. Goal outcomes include smart streets, more user-designed services and an improved city data ecosystem.

Transport emissions

With air pollution and climate change being named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the top ten threats to global health, an important goal for smart cities is to lower emissions. One way that smart cities can target energy usage is in the transport sector.

Reducing road traffic emissions has proven a challenge in the UK, with road traffic increasing from 225 billion miles in 1990 to 328 billion miles in 2018, making up around a third of overall carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Traffic congestion causes more emissions as it increases the time a vehicle is in use, as well as altering driving patterns, such as increasing the number of speed ups, slow downs and stops and starts. All of these actions contribute to increased fuel use, and more carbon emissions.

Implementing smart mobility management systems allows real time monitoring of urban mobility. The data allows city operators to take action to improve traffic flows in the present and future, such as by sharing the data with drivers and redirecting traffic to improve flow. Traffic can also be reduced by adopting intelligent public transport systems, which use smart technology to make the service more usable and appealing.

Building energy efficiency

Another way to make cities smarter is to make buildings more efficient. Around 19% of total UK emissions comes from heating buildings, and this is can be highly affected by weather fluctuations.

For example, the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’ cold period required an extra 120 gigawatts (GW) of energy over a three hour period - the equivalent of 15 million UK households simultaneously increasing their heating from zero to maximum over three hours.

To decrease emissions from buildings, we must increase their efficiency. Loft and cavity wall insulation can reduce home energy bills by up to £480 a year. Upgrading boilers can also be worthwhile, as modern A-rated boilers are more than 25% more efficient than G-rated boilers.

However, up to 40% of a home’s heat is lost through its windows and doors. Therefore it’s important to ensure all buildings are fitted with energy efficient double glazed windows and doors.

Smart technology

Smart cities will rely on smart technology to connect all systems together and report real time data. The Mckinsey Global Institute Smart cities: digital solutions for a more livable future report outlines how digital solutions are an important and cost effective asset to smart city development. The report’s predictions on the technology that will be relevant for cities from now through to 2025 include telemedicine, predictive policing, smart streetlights and much more.

Also included in the report are applications of digital technology in city buildings. These include Building Automation Systems (BAS), home energy automation systems and home energy consumption tracking. BAS involve intelligent, data-enabled automatic and controlled changes to the building.

Building automation could for example control the colour and intensity of building lighting, depending on time of day. This, along with other variables such as heating, ventilation and security can all be controlled from an app. Automated security systems involve cameras, motion sensors and smart locks that can be remotely managed.

It's important to build using materials that can incorporate SMART technology seamlessly. Euramax can collaborate with building project managers to integrate digital technology into windows and doors from the start. This saves time and money, as there is no need to later remove the windows and doors to retrofit technology changes. In addition, Euramax’s windows and doors are all rated A for efficiency, and we offer a bespoke service to ensure we find the perfect fit for your unique project.

Global urbanisation is driving the smart city movement, which is establishing seamlessly connected cities with lower environmental impact and greater quality of life. With the number of people living in UK cities expected to continue to rise, smart initiatives are being rolled out across the region. By installing smart technology and optimising energy usage, cities can progress towards a more sustainable future for all.

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